PROPERTIES on the eastern side of Lyme Regis will be destroyed by landslides and erosion within five years unless a £20 million coastal protection scheme is carried out.
Since the earliest time any major scheme could start is in Spring 2012, and since work is likely to take two years, engineers are now racing against the clock and the sea.
That is why planners at West Dorset District Council are being urged to approve plans next week for a project combining a new sea wall, slope stabilization, and landscaping, habitat restoration and management.
Otherwise, officers warn in a report to councillors, “about 144 houses, Charmouth Road Car Park, much of Charmouth Road and Church Street and major underground pipes and cables are at risk of destruction or serious structural damage within 50 years.
“A few properties are expected to be lost within 5 years.
“Many other properties would suffer structural damage, loss of services or loss of access.
“Failure of the existing Church Cliff sea wall, which has an estimated residual life of about 10 years, would be accompanied by landslips that would immediately threaten several properties and Church Street.”
Among the buildings that could be lost is Lyme’s Grade A Listed parish church.
New sea wall to include existing wall
Engineers want to protect Lyme Regis by building a new 390-metre sea wall, described as sinuous, solid and uncluttered. This concrete structure would encase the existing wall. On top would be a 3- metre-wide walkway for pedestrians, wheelchair users, and maintenance and emergency vehicles. There would be seating on the cliff side, and three sets of steps down to the beach.
Proposed slope stabilisation techniques include soil nails, pile-retaining structures, sub-horizontal drilled drains, also known as raking drains, trench drains, toe drains, and cut-off drains (“deep continuous drains installed at specific locations to intercept groundwater flow into the landslide – effectively ‘cutting off’ the supply of water that lubricates the landslide”).
The scheme has been broadly welcomed, although Lyme Regis Town Council’s planning committee regrets that the beach is not to be replenished, “with, as a consequence, the potential loss of the popular beach walk to Charmouth.”
Vandalism versus views
People living close to a proposed viewing area are also concerned about noise, litter and vandalism.
Officers note in their report to councillors; “The perception is that this facility will become a general ‘recreational’ area, rather than just a viewing platform, and will adversely affect the amenity of adjoining neighbours…
“If it is to proceed then the occupants of Bay View Cottage have asked that they be protected by a ‘substantial fenced buffer zone’ within the viewing area.”
But officers say that “it is commonplace to see areas of public open space immediately abutting the boundaries of private residences, and there is nothing particularly unusual about the current proposals in that regard.
“And a viewing area in this location would be a fabulous public amenity, offering tremendous views of the Jurassic Coast, with easy access from Charmouth Road Car Park.”
The scheme will be considered by councillors on April 8. It will also have to be aproved by the Government.
Work could start in spring 2012. It would probably take two years to complete.